Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10, For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; Night and day we pray exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
The hope and joy of Paul and his prayer was that he would see the saints in Thessalonica once more. There was nothing left for him to give thanks for, his hope was to be amongst his children those he brought to the counsel of Christ. And it was for no other reason he wrote to the church but to provide them with comfort and strengthen them in their faith. “Night and day, we pray exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Said Paul.
Rather than speaking of a rapture, Paul end chapter three of 1 Thessalonians by saying “the Lord Jesus will return with all his saints.” This should show Paul was not speaking or writing to the church to encourage them to wait for a rapture. Instead, Paul speaks of Christ returning with all his saints. And his letter of encouragement was for the church to continue the good fight of faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul then prayed, 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 “Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”
Therefore, Paul encouraged the church to live holy and blameless lives, he encouraged the church to live sanctified lives leading up to the return of Jesus Christ teaching we are to learn how to possess our vessels in sanctification because it was important as we live in the face of persecution, we do not find ourselves disappointed upon the return of Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-5 reads, “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of strong sexual desires, even as the Gentiles which know not God:”
And why was Paul sending this message to the church he loved and as part of his encouragement? Well, it because when Christ returns, he will take with him the saints who went on ahead of us into glory and it is possible for us to lose out on being with them when they shall return with Christ our king. Remember what Paul hope and prayer was for his saints?
First his hope was to see them again, and secondly that God would keep them in sanctification unto the return of Jesus with all his saints. This means the saints are also looking forward to seeing us again when they shall themselves return with Christ. There is opportunity for disappointments should we not walk according to the faith and holiness.
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 “Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”
This letter was not about a rapture, but Paul’s hope and joy regarding the saints and the work they were doing in the face of persecution and death. Rome was working hard at destroying the saints and to prevent the gospel from reaching the four corners of the world. However, despite all that Rome did to prevent the saints, they were determined and filled with the zeal of Christ went forward with the gospel message.
In another letter concerning living holy and sanctified lives in hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and all his saints, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that strived for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible crown. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so, fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
This was a love letter to the Church founded by Paul encouraging the church to stand firm in their faith despite the hardships they were facing. Many among the believers were being hunted down by Rome, the Pharisees, and their own families. Many were brought before governors and kings and were put to death in Christ. But what did Jesus say to his people before his death and resurrection concerning these things?
Matthew 10:18-20 reads, “You shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.”
The life of the early church was filled with pain, sufferings, and lose. But despite it all, they had three things that kept them strong, their love for each other, the hope of the resurrection, and to see the coming of Christ with all his saints. And for this, Paul wrote to encourage the saints in their faith in Christ.